Verdict: Spencer Fleury's careful development of Alton as a unlikeable yet sympathetic narrator, combined with his masterful use of the first-person perspective, gives HOW I’M SPENDING MY AFTERLIFE the pacing, characterization, and structure it needs to make it a top notch, page turning thriller.
When the FBI starts to close in on Alton’s illicit activities, the lawyer turned criminal-on-the-run fakes his death, leaving his wife and his four-year-old daughter to collect the life insurance. But despite his plan to head south to Central America, Alton finds himself drawn back to his family home, where he becomes a “ghost” that lives inside his daughter’s closet and covertly terrorizes his unfaithful wife.
The reader knows from page one that Alton isn’t an upstanding fellow. Alton is a successful lawyer that freely admits that buying his Porsche was “the three or four happiest days” of his life. He’s materialistic, arrogant, and conniving. But despite that, the way that Alton is depicted is surprisingly sympathetic. He’s desperate. He’s afraid. His options are limited. Alton is “a real man who loved his wife and daughter more than he loved himself”. His psyche is well established, so that when he begins to make questionable choices and falls into an inevitable downward spiral it’s easy for the reader to feel bad for him.
The development of Alton as a character leads to one of HOW I’M SPENDING MY AFTERLIFE’s best traits: the structure of the narrative. The novel is told in first person, with the narrator often directly addressing the reader. The first-person perspective lends an added importance to the twists and turns the plot takes—twists and turns reflected in Alton’s changing mental state—and the mystery of who Alton is telling his story to keeps the reader asking questions about what’s going to happen next and what Alton’s fate will ultimately be.
On top of Alton’s stellar characterization, the pacing of HOW I’M SPENDING MY AFTERLIFE is phenomenal. Fleury’s use of foreshadowing and unreliable narration makes for a slow trickle of information that keeps the reader engaged. You know it’s going to end poorly for Alton, but the it leaves just enough questions that you’re sucked into the story. You desperately want Alton to pack up and head south, but at the same time you also want to see him crash and burn.
Spencer Fleury pulls out all the stops to make HOW I’M SPENDING MY AFTERLIFE a page turning thriller that had me glued to it until I’d read the very last word.
~Stephani Hren for IndieReader